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Mercury warnings on the rise in Connecticut
Tuna fish has been added to the list of no-no's for expecting mothers in Connecticut.
Last week the Connecticut Board of Health recommended that pregnant women, women planning to get pregnant within a year and children under 6 years old limit their intake of canned tuna, fresh tuna, swordfish and shark. The fish contain enough toxic mercury that, when eaten regularly, may cause developmental and learning problems in children.
The warning comes as no surprise to environmental and public health organizations, who have been pushing the Food and Drug Administration to revamp its public advisory to consumers about the health risks associated with eating mercury-contaminated seafood. The agency was expected to make such revisions by the end of last year.
Tuna makes up about 20 percent of the seafood that Americans consume.
Since fish do not adhere to state boundaries, the warning should apply to all states, the groups claim, and the FDA should bear primary responsibility for educating the public. While 40 states currently warn residents to restrict their consumption of certain fish due to mercury contamination, health officials say it is difficult to educate consumers about the dangers of mercury.
"FDA's current advice on methylmercury-contaminated seafood doesn't adequately protect pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, nursing mothers and young children," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Countless children may suffer because their parents were never told about the harm that may come from consuming these types of fish.
Methylmercury-contaminated seafood causes neurological problems in as many as 60,000 children born each year in the United States, a July study by the National Academy of Sciences found.
Environmentalists claim the FDA's evaluation program for mercury contamination is flawed and influenced by special interest groups.
"Recently obtained information from the FDA reveals a seafood mercury monitoring program severely lacking in thoroughness, depth and degree," according to an April report conducted by the Mercury Policy Project.
"The FDA's action level is four times less stringent than the EPA's warning," said lead author of the report Michael Bender, who directs the project.
Most mercury that enters lakes, streams, rivers and oceans comes from the atmosphere. About 85 percent of all mercury pollution in the United States is released by power plants that burn coal and municipal and medical waste incinerators that burn mercury-tainted trash.
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